TALE OF THE TAPE

Week 17: Tampa Bay Buccaneers At Atlanta Falcons

Buccaneers
Falcons
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Atlanta Falcons 24 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
(Photo by Chris Graythen/Getty Images)
Quarterback
The Bucs will try to say this game means a lot to them as they take their first step to prepare for the 2013 season. In fact, it will mean very little. Josh Freeman has improved after a dreadful 2012 season, but he has little left in the tank at this point.
Winner The Falcons have secured homefield advantage throughout the NFC playoffs and Mike Smith wants to make sure Matt Ryan goes into the postseason on a roll. However, Ryan will most likely see limited action before he goes to the bench, as will most Falcons starters.
Offense
The Bucs are not going to try to reinvent themselves at this point in the season. They want to establish the run with Doug Martin so Freeman can throw the ball downfield do to Vincent Jackson. That trio may turn out to be quite formidable in 2013.
Winner The Falcons will use many of their backup players in this game. Roddy White and Julio Jones will probably play into the second quarter, but not much further. Veteran Tony Gonzalez will also be rested for much of the game, but running back Michael Turner may get an opportunity to show how much he has left.
Defense
The Bucs have played hard on defense throughout the season, but they have been very ineffective due to repeated mistakes and a lack of overall athleticism. The Bucs rank 32nd against the pass and 29th overall. Linebacker Lavonte David leads the team in tackles and is one of the few Bucs defensive players who play well on defense.
Winner The Falcons will probably try to finish strong on the defensive side against the Falcons. They don’t want to get pushed around by a non-playoff team when they will have an extra week off to prepare for their next game. Safety Thomas DeCoud is a difference maker because of his hitting and ability to force takeaways.
Special Teams
The Falcons have an excellent special-teams weapon in Jacquizz Rodgers, who has the speed to break big plays.. Placekicker Matt Bryant has been a solid weapon while Matt Bosher is averaging better than 47 yards per punt.
Winner The Bucs have not been consistent on special teams all season. They have struggled in kickoff and punt return differential and that has caused additional problems for their struggling defense. Punter Michael Koenen does not get the height on his punts that would help the coverage team.

The Winner Is

Atlanta Falcons 24 - Tampa Bay Buccaneers 23
Winner Falcons
4 out of 4

The Falcons have nothing to play for, but they are a dominant team and they don’t want to go into their bye week after suffering an embarrassing home loss to the Bucs. Even though the regulars should rest for at least half the game, the Falcons should get an easy win.

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